The pro-government majority in Armenia’s parliament insisted on Tuesday that one of its most controversial members did not insult a journalist last week, dismissing video evidence to the contrary.
The parliamentary leaders of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) met with Mher Sedrakian to discuss the incident that sparked uproar from Armenian journalists and media associations. The latter have called for the resignation of the notorious lawmaker who had already offended and threatened a parliamentary correspondent on at least one occasion in the past.
Vahram Baghdasarian, the leader of the HHK’s parliamentary faction, claimed after the meeting that Sedrakian was only “agitated” during the February 19 argument with Paylak Fahradian, one of several journalists who approached him in a parliament corridor and asked for comment on domestic political issues.
“There were no such insults. I have again watched the video,” Baghdasarian told the press.
“I think that we should prevent such incidents,” he said. “I’ve spoken with Mr. Sedrakian. But I’m also calling on journalists to be a bit more careful in their behavior. Such incidents happen.”
Not surprisingly, Sedrakian remained unrepentant about his behavior. “What should I apologize for?” he told reporters. “Watch the video again.”
Sedrakian can be seen and heard swearing at Fahradian and then threatening him in video footage of the incident posted on the Internet by various media outlets.
The HHK’s reluctance censure him will give more ammunition to critics of the Armenian government who say that government loyalists notorious for violence, threats and verbal abuse enjoy impunity because of their political significance to President Serzh Sarkisian.
“Video of the swearing is there,” said Fahradian. “I would advise them to once again watch it. I don’t think that the HHK faction has blurred vision.”
Fahradian spoke as he and several of his colleagues picketed the parliament building in Yerevan on Tuesday to again condemn Sedrakian and demand disciplinary action against him. A corresponding petition draw up by them was signed by seven opposition parliamentarians. Two of them, Nikol Pashinian and Zaruhi Postanjian, joined and addressed the protesters.
Fahradian announced that he will formally appeal to the parliament’s Ethics Commission to examine the incident. “I want to emphasize that this action is not against a single individual but a practice,” he said.